Wick proving her worth in the stroke seat

Senior rower Cheryl Wick started her career in the novice boat at St. Thomas.

Matt Perkins

As a novice rower for the University of St. Thomas, Cheryl Wick wasn’t sure her own coach knew her name.

He did.

And after her team named her Freshman of the Year in 2003, the coach introduced Wick to someone else who knew her name – University rowing team coach Wendy Davis.

“My coach asked me how serious I was about rowing and if I knew Wendy Davis,” senior Wick said. “He really thought I had a chance of doing this at the next level, and it was the best advice I could ever get.”

Now stroke of the Gophers first varsity eight boat, Wick has gone from novice on St. Thomas’ club team to captain of an up-and-coming Division I program.

“Cheryl is definitely the complete leader of this team,” junior Kaja Tally said. “She is our captain for a reason; she leads us in the water in both competition and practice.”

But Wick didn’t receive leadership duties right away.

She started out as a member of the Gophers second varsity eight during her sophomore year – her first at Minnesota.

She recalls traveling to Iowa for the Big Ten Championships at the end of that season and staring in awe at the banner that greeted the conference squads.

“I remember showing up and seeing the banner that said ‘Big Ten Rowing Championships,’ ” Wick said. “I just got chills with the realization that, ‘Wow, this is real, I’m a D-1 athlete.’ “

Wick’s interest in rowing spawned from high school friends who introduced her to the sport. She developed a passion for rowing that could satisfy her competitive thirst.

“I think that highly competitive athletes see (rowing) as another opportunity to continue being an athlete through college,” Wick said. “It’s something you can’t help but love to do.”

Wick was a three-sport athlete in high school, earning varsity letters in track, soccer and basketball. She said she felt her talent peaked for those sports in high school.

She might have yet to peak in rowing.

As part of the Gophers second varsity eight shell her sophomore year, Wick placed first in the Petite Final at the Big Ten Championships.

Last year, Davis made Wick a member of the first varsity eight, where she continued to progress.

Wick again helped her boat finish first in the Petite Final at the Big Ten Championships, adding a similar first place finish at the South/Central regional sprints.

Minnesota hosts this year’s Big Ten Championships and Wick sees that as an opportunity to spread interest in the sport of rowing.

“I think it’s going to be great to spread (the sport) to other people,” Wick said. “We push ourselves just as hard as any other athletes, sometimes maybe more.”

And if there was one person to lead that push for Minnesota, Davis said it would be Wick.

“You can’t really sum up what someone like Cheryl does for a team,” Davis said. “She’s gotten better and better each year here, and has developed into a great leader for this team.”